The news of arrests and the booming scandal in world soccer was not a surprise today. FIFA is not an organization known for transparency and good governance. This led me to consider the situation in other sporting leagues, and I think they are all prone to scandal. I am not talking about the silliness related to Tom Brady and football security, I mean real scandals. Domestic abuse in the NFL. Concussions in the NFL. Steroid use in baseball. There is probably something in hockey but most people are not watching and do not care.
Sports leagues seem beset by scandal these days, and it is not going away anytime soon. Why? We still watch. The dollars from sponsors and advertisers keeps flowing, seemingly without end. One of the key factors to all this is the waiting game they play. Once games starts fans care less about the off-field scandals and more about the winning percentage of the team. This is what happened with the NFL and the Ray Rice situation. Deal with the situation in a ham-fisted fashion, but once games start the story goes to the back pages. Let’s also not consider that the way the NFL handled the case and the resulting punishment probably reduces the number of women married to pro-athletes coming forward. That is not newsworthy certainly, or at least not as important as which quarterback will increase the chances for Philadelphia to win over New York.
So it is no surprise this exists in soccer. I knew this was the case since 1990 when the World Cup semifinal match between (host) Italy and Argentina had a suspicious amount of extra time added to try to give the Italians a change to make it to the finals in their home country. For goodness sake the mob fixed games in the Italian league a few seasons ago. The money is there and the temptation is obviously high. I doubt it will change though. People will continue to watch, and soon enough there will be stories about a player’s performance, or the next great prodigy that will move these stories off the front page. Scandals in sports are here to stay, and will remain part of the news cycle, at least as there are no games to watch.